Before I get into the meat of this essay, I want to make sure youre nice and comfy. I am about to shinny up and bravely perch on the highest, most outlying and controversial branch of sexuality there is, and I want you to be prepared for the shock. Are you nice and settled? Good. Here we go!
Sex in the Pagan community comes in more flavors than a Baskin-Robbins. I know this firsthand, having been invited to participate in all sorts of Bacchanalian romps of every sexual combination imaginable. Ive lurked on lists where there have been great fiery fullisades of verbiage exchanged over whether this or that way of doing the "Great Rite" was "correct". (Sexual Correctness- really!) That is fine- variety is the slice of life- not to mention educational! I have graciously declined to participate in all of these romps and discourses. The reason why? I am celibate.
There. I said it- the "C"-word. And when I do mention it (which is very rarely), the reactions I get sometimes make me wonder if I said something really filthy. It is the one variation of Pagan sexual activity that is glaringly missing, and rarely discussed. And when it is, there is usually a coloring of contempt and ridicule that makes the subject nearly unmentionable, and very unapproachable. There is very little written about it on the Internet that doesnt have to do with Christian religious practice, and very little positive writing on the subject. It is as if broaching the subject might unleash an anti-sexual contagion upon people, an Ebola of sterile loneliness and untouchablilty. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I'll never forget at one Pagan gathering, someone was trying to feel out my sexual orientation. Was I gay? Was I straight? Was I Bi? I told my questioner that I was "A". She didnt get it. "Asexual. Celibate," I carefully explained, knowing I was lighting the fuse for a controversial conversational bomb. "Asexual is a valid category too." The lady who asked the question was incredulous. "Why are you celibate? But why?" She acted like my choice was somehow kinky and abnormal. What? No sex? How could you? What is wrong with you? There is nothing wrong with me. But the horrified reaction of my acquaintance was quite normal, and sadly, almost expected. How can I turn my back on something so wonderful as sex? What am I, sick?
Celibacy isn't a disease. Nor is it repression, perversion, or Judeo-Christian guilt, or the result of a 'bad relationship', or any other psychobabble excuse one can think of. Sometimes is it a product of low sex drive, but most often, celibacy is a conscious decision made in a quietly logical manner by the person. Some people are celibate by circumstance, but many are celibate by choice. I am one of those latter ones. I chose to opt out of the sexual rat race, and use that time and energy more creatively. True celibacy is probably the best kept secret of harnessing genuine magickal prowess. It is an open secret, because most people are afraid of sexually missing out- so celibacy is definitely the road less taken.
What is celibacy? Ill say it again, for those with ears to hear: It is the best-kept open secret of genuine magickal insight and power there is. Because it is so vilified and ignored, few people investigate it and reveal the wonders it has to give. It is the Frog Prince of sexual practice, a Holy Grail disguised as a chipped, battered cup. Because it isnt gaudy, it is overlooked, ignored, or cast aside as a path to enlightenment and spiritual attainment.
Yes, and I repeat: celibacy is a valid and powerful path towards spiritual development. Many religious and spiritual paths recognize this, and mandate it as part of a seekers Inner development. Books by William Grey, Manly Hall, Franz Bardon, Carlos Casteneda and other highly respected Mages and Adepts mandate celibacy as an integral part of higher-level spiritual development. Properly used and understood, it will allow one to leapfrog over the different stages in spiritual growth. With the mind redirected from the rigors of sexual pursuit and desire, concentration on development can proceed- often at an incredible pace. The silencing and redirecting of the procreative urge builds spiritual energy, strengthens the soul, and gives deep insight. One disconnects from the Outer, and reconnects to the Inner. The noise of the Outerworld drops away, and suddenly, one can hear the Signal of inner Divinity. It is an awesome experience. In its own quiet way, it separates the wannabes from the gonna-bes, because it takes much more inner discipline and effort to be voluntarily celibate than it does to be sexually active. It builds an inner reserve of strength and power and self-reliance rarely found in todays magickal communities. Because the magickal practitioner is detached from the physical bonds of sexual intimacy that binds them to another, they can more readily serve the Greater Good. There are many other benefits, too.
Think about this for a moment. How much time, money, and energy do you expend on sexual matters? No, I am not talking about the act itself, I am talking about thinking, shopping, seducing, primping, clothing, meals, stuff- all those acts which orbit around and lead up to the act itself. How much cultural output- movies, music, books, magazines- involves sex, or the pursuit of it? Quite a lot, isn't it? And that isn't even factoring the ultimate result- kids- into the equation. They cost more time and money than anything.
Now, imagine that you've reached a stagnant part of your training. You cannot seem to go anywhere or do anything. The Gods don't talk to you; the rituals don't work for you. Sex is stale. You need to recharge your spiritual batteries.
This is where an opportunity to try celibacy comes in. You can retreat from the demands and consumption of the sex-driven world and concentrate on your own growth and development. Instead of directing that energy outward in the dances of attraction and seduction and maintenance, you can direct that energy inward to Listen to what the Gods might be whispering in your ears. With the clamoring din of the sex impulse muted, you can hear their wisdom much better. Even better, you can redirect your sexual urges into incredible odysseys to spiritual levels that even Tantra cannot achieve.
Celibacy frees you to do that. And it enables you to retune your senses. Remember- sex is a primitive, basic root function. It is the lowest common denominator on the ladder of life. Remember the words to that song: "Birds do it, bees do it "? They do. But climb the ladder a few rungs, and you leave the majority of creation behind, and begin to access the levels that make us unique among all creatures. Voice.Vision. Heart. Hearing. Empathy. Telepathy. Disconnected from the sexual drive, they blossom into incredible dimensions. It is a place that has to be experienced to be understood.
But celibacy isnt the sole domain of the solitary ascetic. In relationships, too, a period of celibacy can often reveal a spiritual dimension that sexual relationships cannot. Men and women can be themselves without having to worry about the sexual pressure to perform or please. Friendships are deepened- without the sidetracking that a sexual relationship brings. People of opposite sexes can become true friends. The term "Platonic" is often used in a rather negative way- but if you really examine the root of the word: the great philosopher Plato, you may discover that a Platonic relationship is superior to an eroticized one. Plato suggests active thought and participation in the examination of life in all its paths. The Platonic friendship can flower into many fruitful branches rather than halting at a single sexual stem.
Celibacy isn't sick or wrong- it is a spiritual challenge, and an invitation to growth and change. It is a valid and honorable path. If you go there, you'll return a different person. Give it a try. It's free. And it won't hurt you. And the best part is that in taking that road less traveled, you will have enriched yourself in ways you will discover for the rest of your life. And that includes your sex life, whatever flavor you prefer.
A Little Bio
Sunfell (Lorie A. Johnson) has been a practicing Pagan for 28 years, and has studied with many different Teachers and Traditions. Among these are the Rosicrucian Order, The Silver Triskel Coven (Wiccan Initiators), the British Spiritualist Church, and the Ocali Nations Wolf Clan. She now considers herself an Eclectic TechPagan. A USAF brat and veteran, shes lived in Japan and Europe. She finally settled in Little Rock, where she keeps the Arkansas State Legislatures computers in line. She has five CD players, four household altars, three slow computers, two big ol cats, and a Zip cartridge in a bare tree.
ã 2000 Lorie A. Johnson